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12 VERY relatable Chinoy experiences

White Flower image from James Wendlinger (South China Morning Post)

Author’s note: Last September 20, 2020, I published an article titled, 12 Things Chinoys Can DEFINITELY Relate To. Since then, numerous new suggestions poured in for a part two. So, without further ado, here it is. Enjoy! 

 

We, Chinoys, collectively share many similar experiences — from using White Flower as our cure to absolutely everything to “pahinging tikoy!” from non-Chinoy friends during Chinese New Year.

Though we come from different backgrounds — some of our families have intermarried, some are from the Visayas region, and the like — we seem to share a lot in common. 

Here are 12 of those VERY relatable experiences:

 

1) Pink or yellow: Anong pagkakaiba?!

We can all probably relate to this! At one point in our lives, we may have wondered what differentiates pink and yellow incense sticks. (Or we might not even know until now!) 

Really, unlike, let’s say, the Code of Canon Law in the Catholic Church, the Chinese culture doesn’t have a set rule book that dictates which incense stick to use. Some say the pink ones go to the mythical Chinese gods, the yellow for the dead, but really, different people give different answers. 

 

2) Summer break days? More like kotiam days. 

So, it’s the last day of school. Exams just finished, and that ever-so-easy Chinese zuowen surely left its mark on your stress levels! (Special shoutout to you, Chiang Kai Shek students!) As Chinoy students, you go home, unwind, watch TV, and … prepare for kotiam the next day. What summer break?

Kotiam, as many of us may know, refers to working for the family business, especially in the home. Many Chinoys experience kotiam, and it can be very enriching! It teaches us the value of hard work and frugality. 

3) We all know what kaishao is. Ayieeeee! 

Now we’re talking real Chinoy stuff! Kaishao basically works like this: a third party — from parents to even friends — introduces a boy and girl to each other in the hopes that a relationship might bloom. This has been a staple in the Chinoy community and often serves as the subjects of memes and comics, too. It doesn’t necessarily mean an arranged marriage — kaishao simply means “to introduce.” Usually, people will say, “I’ll kaishao you with my friend, ah!” So, it can actually be fun stuff! 

And since we’re talking about love …

 

4) “Di u howe na ba?” 

Image from says.com

It’s once again the yearly family reunion. Everyone’s in this large Chinese restaurant in the heart of Greenhills, and relatives from literally everywhere flew in for a visit. Suddenly, an unfamiliar aunt asks, “Di u howe na ba?” Sorry, single people. Or if not that, “Why still single?”, “Why no baby yet?”, or “You get married next year, right?”

It can’t get any more intense than that. 

 

5) Red envelopes!!!

First and foremost, it’s angpao and not ampao, as some people have referred to it. Ang (红) refers to the color red in Minnan/Ban Lam (or more commonly known as Hokkien or Fookien).

But anyways, more than that, yes, we, Chinoys, look forward to those lovely bright red envelopes given by our grandparents and elders during special occasions! That’s all well and good. May it not, however, be the sole reason why we see our grandparents. Let’s still love them even without the angpaos!

 

6) The unique “role” of the ahya or achi in the family

No need for further explanation! 

 

7) Non-Chinoy friends sometimes turn us into walking Chinese dictionaries.

Again, no need for further explanation!

 

8) We attended Chinoy or Chinese schools.

Take your pick! Sacred Heart Cebu, Xavier School San Juan, Xavier School Nuvali, ICA, Grace Christian, Jubilee, St. Stephen, St. Peter the Apostle, Chiang Kai Shek, MGC New Life, St. Jude … and so many more.

What’s cool is that even if all of them are Chinese schools, cultures and practices may still vary. In Xavier School, for example, students know all too well what they get when they misbehave … Clue: it starts with “green” and ends with “slip.”

Uno students, can you relate?

9) We know so many people with the surnames, “Ong,” “Tan,” “Co,” “Go,” and “Lim,” who aren’t even related to each other.

All we gotta look at is our class lists from our school days. You’ll notice so many people with those surnames who say they aren’t even related. Of course, chances are they might be related since they share the same surname, but it’s probably dozens and dozens of generations away. 

 

10) In Chinese restaurants, we always order sweet and sour pork, Yang Chow fried rice, and birthday noodles.

All these food can only be a Chinoy’s favorite Chinese restaurant dishes! It doesn’t matter where, it doesn’t matter who we’re with, these dishes are the way to go! Nothing beats the classics. 

Of course, we shouldn’t fail to mention the Chinese-inspired dishes now adopted by most of the country: lugaw, pancit, mami, and a whole lot more. That just goes to show that what is Chinese can blend with what is Filipino — no need to always talk about what divides the two. 

Speaking of food, though! 

 

11) We all know to do when there’s extra rice…

Yes, we turn it into fried rice! That extra sausage on the table? Whip up some oil, salt and pepper, an egg or two, then add in the sausage and the rice and it’ll be good as new. In a Chinoy’s home, there just ain’t no wasting food, and that’s a wonderful thing! 

Still, this doesn’t just show how we, Chinoys, save every bit of food we have, but it also shows our creativity — turning things into something new and different. 

Now, one last thing about food! (See below.)

 

12) “Di jia beh” instead of “I love you”

It seems like food is such a huge part in Chinoy culture that our sometimes (or often) not-too-expressive parents would say, “Have you eaten?” or Do you want to eat?” instead of “I love you!” Relatable indeed. More than that, though, we, Chinoys, can relate to the fact that our parents show their love for us in ways we must be thankful for. 

In the end, this is by no means an exhaustive list, and that’s a wonderful thing. Why? Well, it proves that we, Chinoys, have a lot to offer the world! It shows that we have indeed established a unique identity, an identity that we should always be thankful for — not just Chinese, not just Filipino, but Chinese and Filipino. 

 

About the author of this article:

Aaron is currently a Junior Multimedia Producer for CHiNOY TV. He is a constituent of the Ateneo de Manila University Chinese Studies Program, a member of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies, and a Documentation and Publications Associate Vice President for Ateneo Celadon. He enjoys watching Chinese dramas and (occasionally) making TikTok videos!

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